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Cryotherapy Catches On In Sports World, Despite Potential Risks

Tennis player Stan Wawrinka posted a photo of him getting cryotherapy to Instagram, with the caption "recovery time."
Tennis player Stan Wawrinka posted a photo of him getting cryotherapy to Instagram, with the caption "recovery time."

A handful of world-class tennis players who competed in the Western & Southern Open last week made an extra stop at a nearby cryotherapy spa, Arctic Blast Cryo. Some swear by the shocking cold temperatures, ranging from -190 °F to -270 °F, as a way to repair damage down to the cellular level.

Pro Stan Wawrinka is a fan of cryotherapy and even posted pictures of his treatment on Instagram this spring.

     View this post on Instagram          Freezing my #cold #freethenipples #iceicebaby #freezing #recovery A post shared by Stanislas Wawrinka (@stanwawrinka85) on Apr 17, 2019 at 10:31am PDT

ESPN and Tennis World report Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, Feliciano Lopez and Grigor Dimitrov also are regular users.

Cryotherapy goes way beyond the typical ice bath. The University of Cincinnati's Dr. Brian Grawe says it evenly controls the temperature throughout the body.

"Your inflammatory response is revved up. On a cellular level it also helps with oxygenation and also the metabolism of the cell to make sure things are not as catabolic where you're not breaking down muscle," he says.

Before being blasted by nitrogen gas for three minutes, customers cover their hands, feet and part of their face. The temperature can reach more than minus 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some players use cryotherapy before and after a match. Who else goes to Arctic Blast Cryo? Owner Kendall Jones says teenagers recovering from surgery, football players, people suffering from chronic pain and top athletes, including marathoners.

Recently Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown had an incident in a cryotherapy chamber where his feet wound up with frost bite. It is unclear what happened.

The FDA hasn't approved cryotherapy and the American Academy of Dermatology doesn't recommend it.


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With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.